Priming the pump to bring clean water to small farms

Futurepump featured in The Times newspaper 08/03/2021.

Our Managing Director Toby Hammond discussed our customers, climate change, the benefits of solar-powered irrigation and explained why we have chosen to buck the trend and seek investment through a crowdfund.

How solar-powered irrigation can have benefits for the environment, local economy and society

“Futurepump customers used to be able to set their watch by the rainy season. That has gone. Sometimes you get massive floods, sometimes droughts, erratic weather patterns that equate to risks to their crops.”

Irrigation can mitigate such unpredictability, improving harvests and incomes, but the vast majority of smallholders still simply “wait and pray for the rain”. Most of the remainder rely on petrol-powered pumps or “bucket irrigation”. The former is expensive and can draw too much water, at the expense of neighbouring farmers. “When you’re spending your money on petrol, your money is flowing out of the community and into the petrochemicals supply chain.” Manual irrigation, meanwhile, is the physical equivalent of climbing a mountain every day. “It’s serious, hard donkey work in the blazing heat.”

The joy of raising cash from people rather than ‘money bandits’

To date Futurepump has mostly been grant funded, but for its latest funding round it has turned to equity crowdfunding. A round on Crowdcube, the funding website, that is open until early April quickly beat its £300,000 (US $420,000) and is now overfunding.

“Involving people rather than trying to do backroom deals with money bandits is very positive,” Hammond says. “The really cool thing is that the investors are from more than 40 countries, some of them are farmers, some our distributors. We’ve suddenly got hundreds of investors from all over the world who are behind our mission.”